It’s not just about Baby Yoda, you know. While the diminutive green child attracted most of the headlines, The Mandalorian is arguably the best thing to come out of that famous galaxy far, far away since Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas.
Starting out as the story of an enigmatic bounty hunter making his way across the universe, the show operates in the kind of morally ambiguous hinterlands where shooting first is usually the best option. But when a fateful job introduces the eponymous Mando to “the Child” (aka Baby Yoda), he turns into an unlikely guardian, protecting the kid from various mercenaries and the remains of the Empire.
Across its all-too-brief eight-episode run, The Mandalorian season 1 channels Westerns, heist movies and more into the tale of a lone gunslinger re-evaluating his moral code. More importantly, however, it’s a brilliant journey into Star Wars mythology, exploring the backstory of the mysterious Mandalorians, picking things up with the Imperial remnant, and daring to ask one of the biggest mysteries in the franchise – where did Yoda come from?
Here we rank every episode of The Mandalorian so far, from best to last.
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1. Chapter 8: Redemption
Both an explosive finale and the perfect set-up for The Mandalorian season 2, it’s hard to imagine how ‘Redemption’ could have been any better. With Moff Gideon’s forces laying siege to the Mandalorian, Cara Dune and Greef Karga, the episode channels John Carpenter’s classic Assault on Precinct 13 as the trio do what they can to repel the might of the former Empire.
The unexpected hero, however, is reprogrammed bounty hunter droid IG-11 – from embracing his new role as Baby Yoda’s unlikely, all-action guardian to his noble act of self-sacrifice, IG is one of the show’s biggest heroes so far.
This season closer doubles down on Star Wars lore, with the Mandalorian getting his hands on a jetpack, and setting out to find the Child’s people – a race of “enemy sorcerers” better known as Jedi. Gideon also reveals himself as a charismatic and chilling villain, who just happens to wield the Darksaber, a sacred Mandalorian weapon.
2. Chapter 7: The Reckoning
With the main Baby Yoda/Client arc sidelined for the previous three chapters, the penultimate episode of The Mandalorian season 1 starts pulling the key threads – and characters – back together.
Realizing that mercenaries will never stop coming after the Child, Mando answers the call of his handler, Greef Karga, to use Baby Yoda as bait to take down the Imperial forces in town – and subsequently make peace with the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. Ex-Rebel shocktrooper Cara Dune and Ugnaught Kuiil answer Mando’s call, and even Karga reneges on his original plan to betray the Mandalorian, his mind changed when the Child uses his Force powers to save his life. Unfortunately, the Client – and his “four Stormtroopers” – prove to be the least of their worries, as they turn out to be little more than a front for Moff Gideon and his battalion of troops.
The episode also ends in tragedy, as Kuiil’s blurrg steed isn’t quite fast enough to get him back to the Razor Crest in one piece – leaving the Child to be captured by a pair of Scout Troopers.
3. Chapter 3: The Sin
By the time the Mandalorian returns to Nevarro to collect the bounty on the Child, he’s gone through quite an evolution from the cold, calculating mercenary we first met at the start of the series. In their brief time together, Baby Yoda has made such an impact that Mando breaks his profession’s code of silence to ask about the Client’s plans – it’s increasingly clear there’s more to this merc than a (very cool) suit of armor…
With Mando's Beskar steel payment enough to pay for a shiny upgrade to his iconic outfit, it’s the perfect excuse to delve deeper into the history of the Mandalorian people. Forced to live in hiding after the Empire’s Great Purge, they’re skeptical of Mando’s involvement with an ex-Imperial like the Client. That doesn't stop them coming to his aid when he breaks ranks to rescue the infant, however – while we’d seen armies of Mandalorians in action in The Clone Wars, it’s thrilling to watch them in full flight in live-action.
4. Chapter 1: The Mandalorian
Considering the surefire meme-generating machine Baby Yoda has become, it’s remarkable that nobody knew anything about his existence ahead of The Mandalorian’s debut. Instead Disney Plus opted to sell the show off the back of a masked, far-from-talkative anti-hero operating in various wretched hives of scum and villainy.
This opening episode is the perfect introduction to Mando and his world. With a penchant for freezing his targets in carbonite (wonder where he got the idea for that…), a ruthless approach to getting the job done (“I can bring you in warm… Or I can bring you in cold”), and a memorable ship (the Razor Crest), he's all set to become a memorable addition to Star Wars rogue’s gallery.
Then he accepts the lucrative job that leads him to the Child, taking in a major gunfight and a skirmish with droid assassin IG-11 along the way. The rest, as they say, is history.
5. Chapter 4: Sanctuary
Return of the Jedi famously pitted the Ewoks against technologically superior opposition, and this episode follows a similar blueprint – with a dash of The Magnificent Seven thrown in for good measure.
The Mandalorian and Cara Dune agree to protect a group of farmers from a gang of criminals who’ve been using an Imperial AT-ST to terrorize them. Even though the ultimate result of the skirmish is never in doubt, director Bryce Dallas Howard’s clever use of light and dark ensures that the so-called “chicken walker” has never been as intimidating as it is here.
Much more important, however, is the way the episode gets under the Mandalorian’s helmet (figuratively, if not literally) to reveal more of his human side. He’s clearly tempted by villager Omera’s offer to hang up the armor and move in permanently – and is even prepared to leave Baby Yoda in her care, until a bounty hunter shows up and changes his mind.
A welcome change of pace.
6. Chapter 6: The Prisoner
The Mandalorian season 1 works its way through plenty of Hollywood genres, and in ‘The Prisoner’ it’s the turn of the heist movie. With the Guild no longer giving him work, Mando takes on a job from one of his old ‘friends’ to break an inmate out of a New Republic prison ship – he probably shouldn’t have bothered…
The beats of the episode border on cliché, with Mando forced to work with a ragtag group of criminals, and facing up to the inevitable double cross. Even so, it's cliché with style.
The way he battles himself out of an extremely tight spot – locked away in a prison cell – shows why you’d always want him on your side in a fight. And the final pay-off – where the Mandalorian makes clever use of a trio of New Republic X-Wings to ensure he has the last word – is rather satisfying.
7. Chapter 5: The Gunslinger
The original 1977 Star Wars made a big thing of its “Western in space” influences, but the franchise had largely left them behind until The Mandalorian first walked into a bar.
No season 1 episode plays on the lone gunslinger motif as heavily as Chapter 5, as Mando – marooned on Tatooine – agrees to help a wannabe bounty hunter bring in rogue assassin Fennec Shand.
While the cowboy-style gunfights are fun, the Dune Sea backdrops spectacular, and the return to Mos Eisley welcome, you can’t escape the feeling that little of what happens is consequential to the overall story arc. The Child does get to melt the heart of kindly mechanic Peli Motto, and there may be a brief cameo from Boba Fett. But otherwise this is an inessential diversion on an iconic world.
8. Chapter 2: The Child
The shortest episode in the Mandalorian season 1 is also the slightest in terms of plot. With the Child safely recovered, Mando returns to the Razor Crest to find it’s been stripped for parts by Jawas. One failed, Indiana Jones-inspired assault on a Sandcrawler later, he’s off on a mission to recover the Mudhorn egg the Jawas want in payment before they’ll return his stuff.
While the episode deserves extra points for being bold enough to tell much of its story without dialogue, ‘The Child’ isn’t particularly memorable otherwise. The fight with the rhino-like Mudhorn is tense – and Baby Yoda using the Force to save Mando is a huge moment – but this ultimately feels like padding, filling time until the Mandalorian delivers the Child to the Client.